Elizabeth Sclater from the European Older Women’s Network took the floor at a webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s rights hosted by the Feminist Europe Platform last 22 June.
Providing a life-course approach to the issue of feminism and ageing, Elizabeth stressed in her speech some key issues faced by older women across Europe.
“Human rights do not diminish with age, they are valid for all of us across the life course until we die” highlighted Ms Sclater as a statement particularly important to remind in the current COVID-19 crisis, where blatant ageism and age discrimination have resulted into lack of attention and preparedness to the situation of older women in need of care.
While recalling the disparities of older women’s issues and situations across EU countries, the Older Women’s Network secretary pointed out the challenges and concerns with regard to the connectedness of older people. First seen as an important way to keep social contact during containment, it also speeds up the growing digitalization of services in our societies, raising the issues of connectedness in rural communities, both in terms of broadband coverage and the importance of ‘physical’/’real’ contacts.
As an older woman from the rural community in the UK highlighted: “Online is not the new normal for me. I don’t want it to be the only way I connect with people”. Face-to-face interactions are a real challenge for isolated older women.
When revitalizing the economy, we need to ensure that care work is valued, and that we recognize the importance of the informal economy and invest in frameworks that support it. Many women care for children and/or adults in need of assistance, or work as volunteers. They need support to be able to remain in paid work while continuing to do unwaged but essential informal care work.
On the issue of abuse against older women, Elizabeth reminds that existing legal framework to protect victims should be used against elder abuse. The Older Women’s Network is furthermore supporting a UN instrument for older persons’ rights and the work of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People on that issue.
The webinar has been registered and can be followed on Youtube (Elizabeth Sclater’s intervention starts at 29:40).